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America responds to Hurricane Katrina

NBC's Ron Mott reports on the relief effort under wy in the southeastern U.S., where millions now rely on the kindness of strangers.
/ Source: NBC News correspondent

On a hot Mississippi summer day, a meal of chili, green beans and a refreshing fruit cocktail was appreciated by survivors in the hurricane-ravaged town of Biloxi.

Sandra Douglas and her two boys, along with scores more at a Baptist Church, were the recipients of generosity now stretching across America. 

“Without then, we don't know where we'd get our next meal from,” says Douglas. “There are not many stores open.”

The Baptist Church feeding station is one of a half dozen sent by the Southern Baptist Convention from several states.

“You see a brother in need and you're supposed to minister to him,” says volunteer Vernon Boteler. “And that's what we're doing.”

The empathy is coming from everywhere. In Minnesota, volunteers who normally fight forest fires were packing for a 1,200-mile drive south, for, as Eric Carlson put it, the most basic reason: “I think we can do some good.”

On Long Island, N.Y., Jennifer Vomvas went online, opening her heart and more to Katrina's victims.

“We have a dry home, we have electricity, we have food and water,” offers Vomvas. “We'd be willing to share it.”

In Georgia, a FEMA warehouse was dispatching a million meals and 300 trucks of water.

Bea Roahde, who was helping in the relief efforts, said, “You just feel so small when the people thank you for bringing them water.”

There is one big problem. With so much aid arriving and needing to be distributed over the course of weeks and months, nearly every warehouse along the Gulf Coast has been destroyed. 

Said one local official, “I need a 50,000-square-foot building right now. If you've got one, call me.”

For now, Sandra Douglas and her boys, like so many of her neighbors, are grateful to see the best of humanity can be revealed in the worst of times.